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Morning Briefing May 29: The fight for NZ’s fresh water

The dire state of New Zealand’s waterways and the grim realities of a lack of water in some regions have sat centre stage once again. 

Source: istock.com

The Government announced a raft of reforms for improving the country’s waterways yesterday, including a $700 million fund for creating jobs in wetland planting, sediment removal and initiatives to prevent farm run-off entering streams and rivers.

They also revealed tougher rules on nitrogen pollution, including a cap on the amount of fertiliser farmers can use. 

The measures follow a damning report into New Zealand’s freshwater quality last month, but not everyone is 100 per cent on board with the plans put in place to tackle the issue.

Federated Farmers says the new proposals "still have some sharp edges that will bite our farmers and rural communities at a time when we need it least".

But Forest & Bird says even more needs to be done to protect waterways, including a national bottom line for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.

Meanwhile, Auckland is still facing water issues of a different kind as the city looks to manage its extended drought.

Mayor Phil Goff says the region will have to look at new options to secure its water supply as climate change makes droughts more frequent. These include recycling wastewater or better using rainwater run-off.

And Stuff reports drought stricken Kaikohe finally has a back-up water supply, but residents are not keen to drink the treated water from Lake Omapere should their taps run dry.

The lake has been plagued by algal blooms, and while the danger of toxins has been removed from the water, Mayor John Carter says it still smells and tastes unpleasant. 

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Economic crunch ‘just starting’

The country’s long road to economic recovery is only just beginning, according to ASB’s latest quarterly forecast.

The bank says New Zealand’s fast response to Covid-19 means it could be in a better position to return to normality sooner than other countries, however their chief economist Nick Tuffley warns this may still be a way away. 

Official job numbers out yesterday also highlighted the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on New Zealand’s businesses.

Job numbers fell sharply last month, with 37,500 fewer people in work compared to March. It represents the largest fall since Statistics NZ started counting filled jobs 20 years ago.

A long weekend at Level 2

The number of people allowed at social gatherings will increase to 100 from midday today, just as the country enters its first long weekend since the Level 3 and 4 lockdowns.

Kiwis are preparing to hit tourism hotspots around the country this weekend, with Queenstown in particular looking forward to a deluge of visitors

Domestic travellers will no doubt feel buoyed by a sixth straight day without any confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand and predictions the country could be declared free of the virus in 21 days.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has told Stuff with so few known active cases of Covid-19 left, the country may have already effectively eliminated it. 

And options for travelling a little further afield may be a few months away yet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying September could be a “realistic” timeframe for New Zealand’s borders to open to Australia. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is still agitating for the trans-Tasman bubble to happen much sooner.

Hong Kong law causes concern

Mr Peters also says the Government is deeply concerned China has passed new national security legislation in Hong Kong.

Critics say the law's sweeping new powers threaten fundamental political freedoms and civil liberties in the semi-autonomous territory.

Mr Peters says New Zealand "will continue to monitor the situation closely".

The US, UK, Australia and Canada have also condemned the move.

Death spurs more clashes

The US city of Minneapolis has seen a second night of violent clashes following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody.

Police fired tear gas at protesters as they threw rocks, sprayed graffiti and looted businesses in the area.

George Floyd, 46, died earlier this week, with video showing him gasping for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

The Guardian is reporting two of the officers seen in the video have previously been involved in other violent incidents while on duty.

Other news of note this morning:

An Auckland high school is investigating after a student allegedly dressed in blackface and used a racist slur in an online post.

A cyclist has died after a crash involving a truck in Mt Maunganui.

The country has seen an increase in its rate of HIV infections, following two years of declining numbers.

A sewerage pipe has burst in Wellington’s CBD just days after the city got its pipe woes under control. 

And the struggling arts sector is being given tens of millions dollars in Government funding to help it get back on its feet.

And finally...

A scene from Rhys Darby: Big In Japan Source: Seven Sharp

“Remember when we used to travel?” asks Rhys Darby ahead of the premiere of his new TV series, Rhys Darby: Big in Japan.

The Kiwi comedian spent five weeks travelling the length and breadth of Japan last year for what’s probably become the last travel show ever made.

Darby has a crack at sumo wrestling, creates his own mascot and tastes some local delicacies – and it turns out his brand of Kiwi japery and the quirks of life in Japan are a match made in heaven